status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
The steady stream of gifts – flowers, eggs, courgettes, tomatoes, basil, peaches, figs, cucumbers and apples forthcoming from my self-sufficient and incredibly generous neighbours is slowly giving way to bunch upon bunch of grapes.
Every day I pass people lugging huge great containers of the fruit from their campagne to their cantine, and that can mean only one thing; it’s wine-making time!
Having already sampled a bottle of homemade rosé, obtained through one of my bartering exercises, and rejoiced in its fresh-tasting hangoverlessness, I was intrigued to find out more about what was involved in the elaboration of this local elixir.
My camera and I were invited into the cantina of the local retired schoolmarm, for a step by step lesson in how to transform the humble uva into that sumptuous nectar, vino.
Step 1: The Primary Ingredient
Step 2: Not a Wheelbarrow
Once harvested, the grapes are transported in the lightweight plastic containers that have replaced more traditional wooden ones. They are then tipped into a macchina chi schiaccia (machine that crushes – the correct term had escaped her), balanced over a wooden cask.
Step 4: The crushed uva falling into the barrel
The handle of the wheelbarrow crushing machine is turned, sending the newly crushed grapes to join their already pretty squishy friends in the cask below.
Step 5: Take one Ferocious-looking Pronged Stick
Step 6: And Stir Vigorously
The mixture is stirred with a long, pronged stick until all new additions are thoroughly combined. Sugar is added (except if the wine is for commercial purposes, when it is prohibited) and the contents of the cask are left to ferment for at least eight days.
Step 7: Filters for the Trappage of Grape Gunk
At which point, the tap at the bottom is opened to allow the liquid to filter out through a ramasetta (dialect) or scopino. These filters are made from rametti secchi di erica – dried heather twigs, or rametti dalla vite secchi – dried twigs from the vines themselves and are attached inside the cask next to the tap.
The wine is then placed in damigiane, demijohns, where it is left untouched until San Martino (11th of November) when the demijohns are changed over.
Step 8: Grape Gunk Squeezer
The vinaccia, or remains of the grapes, are put into a torchio (press), where they are re-crushed and the liquid filtered into separate containers. This wine is also perfectly drinkable although it is said to fare un po piu di fondo/fare deposito meaning it leaves more solids in the bottom of the bottle.
Grape juice with a difference
Both wines are ready to be supped in time for Christmas, and although the white mosto I tasted straight from the cask was very nice indeed, and nothing like any of the revolting grape juices I have tried before, it is without doubt the finished product that gets my vote.
So it is with baited breath and almost unbearable excitement that I will be counting down to the time of the year that I usually dread…
Roll on the festive season, and let those corks fly!
This is Status Viatoris, who having failed miserably in keep one little orchid alive is probably unwise to think about trying her hand at a spot of viticulture, in Italy.